In the rush of news surrounding Colin O’Brady and Louis Rudd’s race across Antarctica in recent weeks, one name routinely pops up among readers who point out that, hey, somebody did already cross Antarctica unaided and solo—Borge Ousland of Norway. In late 1996 and early 1997, Ousland dragged a sled containing all his food and supplies behind him as he crossed Antarctica from open water at the Ronne Ice Shelf to open water at the Ross Ice Shelf, a distance of 1,864 miles. Where O’Brady and Rudd started and stopped where the mountains of Antarctica meet the gigantic ice shelves that extend hundreds of miles into the sea, Ousland began at the sea and ended at the sea. His trip was more than twice as long as O’Brady and Rudd’s.
In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, longtime adventure writer David Roberts reminds readers of Ousland’s tremendous accomplishment and points out that he navigated with only a compass, rudimentary GPS, and his wits. Roberts also argues that just because Ousland employed a small fabric sail to help propel him along during times of brisk winds on downhill portions of the route he skied, his accomplishment should not be overlooked. Some might call that use of a sail clever. Others though, call that “assistance.”
You can read the op-ed here.